Editor’s Note: This is Kayla Yazzie’s guest essay about a trip to the Grand Canyon East Rim in western Navajo Nation in May. The trip was to the area high above the rim of the Little Colorado and Colorado River called the Confluence. Yazzie is a Grand Canyon Trust intern, and her work ends Aug. 5.

By Kayla Yazzie

Courtesy of Grand Canyon Trust
Kayla Yazzie is an intern at Grand Canyon Trust, working on environmental conservation efforts.

Since joining the Grand Canyon Trust, I have been learning about uranium mining, a hydroelectric dam proposal and how these projects affect the tribal communities. These tribes have traditional emergence stories from the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado River.

Growing up on the Navajo Nation inspired me to address and take part in environmental solutions, conservation and sustainability efforts, climate change, and helping all the different tribal communities that are affected by these issues. With these goals for my future career, a Fort Lewis College professor introduced me to Grand Canyon Trust because of the passion I have to help tribal communities.

The work that the Grand Canyon Trust does has changed my perspective of the Canyon and the importance it has for the local tribal communities. I used to visit the Grand Canyon for
recreational purposes or just to admire the views because there wasn’t a lot of information for the public on tribes in the region. I am now glad to be more part of these movements that work
towards the benefits for the 11 tribal communities along the Grand Canyon and Little Colorado River.

  • Who: Kayla Yazzie
  • Age: 22
  • Title: Grand Canyon Program intern.  
  • Home: Diné (Navajo) from St. Michaels, AZ and Shiprock, N.M.
  • Education: Bachelors’ degree in Environmental Science from Fort Lewis College.

This means that the river and canyon have sacred sites that the tribal communities want to keep safe. Before the Trust, I didn’t hear much news about these proposed development
projects that were affecting the tribal communities.

Thanks to Delores Wilson Aguirre, who works with Save the Confluence, we were able to visit the Confluence area and some of the local community members.

More awareness needs to be spread about these community members because they still live with no running water or electricity. Most of them have been living in these conditions their
whole lives. This needs to change for them.

Nobody wants to leave the region because there is a traditional and spiritual connection to the land.

I plan to continue helping all tribal communities that are dealing with environmental injustice issues on their land. I also want to keep supporting projects and programs that are working towards the protection of environmental issues among tribal communities.

My goal at the Trust is to recruit and spread awareness to the Native youth about the work that the Grand Canyon Trust has to offer and how people can get involved to help.

I am recruiting Native youth to attend an overnight flyover event that will focus on these sites, along with guest speakers to express their concerns and traditional values of the Grand Canyon and Little Colorado River. The purpose is help others learn about how these projects will affect the tribes that have lived in the area for millennia. We hope that this event will encourage others become passionate in the work to stop these developments.

I hope this event encourages others to become passionate in the work to stop these developments.

I plan to share this event through blogs and video interviews on the Save the Confluence websites and Facebook page and on the Grand Canyon Trust website.